Every year there comes a point when I can no longer stand Christmas decorations. This is remarkable given my ongoing obsession with collecting vintage Christmas stuff of all shapes and sizes.
If you’ve read the other posts here, you know that Jeremy and I collect Christmas decorations like Imelda Marcos collected shoes; there is always room for more, even if there isn’t. Our combined power of rationalization when it comes to an old, unique Christmas tchotchke is pretty remarkable. There are many people like us, of course, so Christmas stuff as a category is fairly common in antique shops, flea markets, auctions, and hole-in-the-wall junk emporiums, making it relatively easy to come home from many (most?) outings with something wrapped in tissue paper. We go through phases when we shake something off and declare that we don’t have room or we really don’t need it. Need, however, is a losing argument for collectors, and space is a tough argument when an ornament fits in your pocket. Still, one or the other of us – and sometimes, miraculously, both of us – occasionally intervenes effectively. I think we have successfully reduced the volume of what we bring home, but probably not the frequency with which we do it. Baby steps, I guess.
This year we successfully down-sized what we put out for the holiday. I’d like to say that we developed stunning self-control, but that’s only minimally true. The real reason we have less in the house is because much of it is not in the house. Our town historical society owns a beautiful old house 3 doors from us and operates it as a museum. Jeremy and I both love history and especially the history of our little town, but our involvement with the historical society and museum was limited. One day last summer, Jeremy had a conversation with one of the two women who curate the museum and offhandedly told them that we would be willing to display some of our Christmas collection there. While she seemed interested, nothing definite was discussed. It was a little surprising when she approached him on the sidewalk in November and asked if we would like to guest curate a display for the holidays, but of course we said yes and thus a significant chunk of our collection was housed in the museum this year. When we did decorate our house, we also managed to purge some items that either couldn’t find an obvious home, were really not in good condition, or just didn’t fit in the evolved collection. Ok, this really didn’t amount to a lot – perhaps one box – but again, baby steps.
So the house this year is somewhat less Christmas-filled than in previous years. Of course, that is by our standards; it’s all relative. Unless you’ve seen it in recent years, you might not understand. Actually, though, I don’t think it really matters how much there is. There is a time in early January when my eyes just get tired of Christmas and I really long to have it away again. There is just something that happens when the house is bare of the reds and greens and sparkle after they have been out of their boxes for a while. Some people dislike the loss of the gleam of Christmas, but to me there is a wonderful quietness that happens when it is gone. There is a peace that occurs when my eyes are no longer drawn to the twinkle of Christmas; I find the house more tranquil and calm. To me, it matches the sparseness of the season. I love winter and its quiet, subtle beauty. It is a restful, restorative time if you allow it to be. I know there are many who vehemently disagree with me, but there is nothing better than a good, old-fashioned snowstorm. Yes, I find snow beautiful, but what I love even more is the giving in that it requires from us. Is there anything better than not being responsible for making a choice to do nothing but stay at home? To just curl up in the comfy chair with a blanket and a book or favorite film, with something fragrantly delicious on the stove or in the oven? Yes, yes, shoveling snow is hard work, and there is a difference between a good snowstorm and a pain-in-the-ass snowstorm. Yes, deep snow and extreme cold make everyday chores much more difficult, especially things like caring for the critters, but I will still take it – at least until March. I am a born and bred Pennsylvanian, after all. I love my four seasons, and inevitably I find myself looking forward eagerly to the next one.
But right now, in this moment, my eyes are tired of Christmas. They want to scan a room without the brain telling them to pause and notice the shiny something, this twinkle and that burst of color. They are tired of the urgency of the holidays and ready for the restoration of stillness. To renew and remember. To take in less and see more. To exhale, slowly.
This winter seems reluctant to provide any sustained cold, let alone snow. It may yet happen – winter is young here – but even without the weather’s dictate it feels right to pause. It feels needed, a desirable hiatus from the marathon of the final 3 months of the year; hibernation in human form. We don’t often do it, though, without being required to by some circumstance. That’s a shame, I think, and contributes to our collective weariness. Or mine, at least. Your mileage may vary.
Yes, I am ready for Christmas to go away. To be tucked safely in tissue and tubs, and slipped back into the corners of attics and basements for about a year, not to be opened except when a new old treasure is added. Next December I will be ready and excited to see it again, to peel back the layers and remember those small wonders, old and fragile. It will be time for it, then. Now, it is time for their long rest, and time for mine.
(NOTE: I began this post a week ago. In the meantime, we’ve been distracted by a plumbing malfunction and the possibly impossible prospect of buying a certain farm (I know!) so needless to say, my eyes are even tired-er. I should probably have spent this time packing Christmas away instead of writing!)